RPG Student List


Junshi WU

Doctor Candidate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Supervisor: Prof. Yongli MI


Research Topic

Ionic Liquids as Novel Electrolytes for Electrolytic Aluminum Production


Aluminum is among the most widely used materials in industrial and commodity applications. As a major producer of aluminum, China pays a very heavy toll in terms of environmental destruction and public health deterioration. In one locality, we found evidence that suggests an association between the high levels of air pollution, underground water pollution and land pollution from the electrolytic aluminum industry, and higher cancer rates and reduced average life span. Given the serious drawbacks with the traditional Hall–Héroult method of electrolytic aluminum production, we aim to introduce a novel and ‘greener’ technique, using ionic liquids (ILs) as the electrolyte in the production of aluminum. The process is more energy efficient, with low (practically zero) pollution. Our preliminary investigation of the structures and properties of ILs revealed that, when using ILs, the reaction temperatures used for aluminum electrolysis could be reduced to below 100°C, and that energy consumption levels would remain below 10kW·h/kg-Al, thereby significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse (e.g., CO2) and hazardous (e.g., HF) gases. Our proposed work will involve an in-depth investigation of the relationship between structures of ILs and the raw materials used in electrolytic systems. We will also study the mechanism of the IL-aluminum electrochemical reaction, and aim to establish a continuous reaction device in the laboratory to facilitate the scale-up of this technique.